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Westminster

The Hollow Victory

Prime Minister Theresa May

By former MP for Stirling, Steven Paterson
The Meaningful Vote on the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal should have been the defining moment of her premiership, but after three days of the scheduled five days of debate in the House of Commons, and speeches from no less than 164 members of parliament, the government used a technical device to postpone the remainder of the debate. It was an act of political cowardice necessitated by a desperate misjudgement over the Prime Minister’s deal.

Given this Government’s record on keeping its promises, it remains to be seen if the debate is ever concluded, but for what it’s worth, the Government has guaranteed the debate and the vote on it will be revived before its own deadline of 21 January 2019. We’ll see. 

The whole episode was an absolute shambles, and the most compelling evidence yet that this government has lost all authority and credibility. But for as long as it stumbles on, it will be assailed and harangued from all sides, including its own, and will lurch from one crisis headlong into the next. 

That’s not to say there wasn’t logic to the Prime Minister’s decision to pull the vote on its penultimate day. She was facing a certain and catastrophic defeat, which would likely have been too much for her tenuous grip on the title of Prime Minister to bear, and the calculation that a shameful retreat was better than a career-ending defeat wasn’t difficult. The real puzzle is how she ever thought her deal had a snowball’s chance of passing given the implacable opposition on her own backbenches. 

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Leadership Vacuum and Westminster in Turmoil: Crawford Demands the People Have a Say

Stirling MSP Bruce Crawford has called for the people to be consulted on our future relationship with the European Union.

His call comes during a crisis of leadership in Westminster, with a meaningful vote on the Brexit Deal delayed, and the Prime Minister facing a leadership challenge.

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Coming Apart At The Seams

Westminster

By Steven Paterson, former MP for Stirling

“It’s a political crisis but not yet a constitutional crisis” was one of the comments from the talking heads on the wall to wall 24 hour news coverage in recent days, and maybe it was the inclusion of the word ‘yet’ signifying that there’s still much worse to come that made the comment stick with me.

Call this moment in our politics what you will but this is unprecedented and things cannot go on much longer as they have. Something has to give.

The opening day of the Meaningful Vote debate was remarkable, not least for the fact that Theresa May’s Government was knocked reeling before the debate even started as it earned the historic ignominy of being the first government in Westminster’s long history to earn the collective Contempt of Parliament, and be forced kicking and screaming to publish legal advice and comply with a vote some weeks ago which compelled it to do exactly this.

Then in a programme motion, an amendment from the erudite Tory remainer Dominic Grieve, wrested powers over how parliament proceeds in the aftermath of the expected defeat of the Government next week. This was a technical process issue, but it matters: if the Prime Minister’s deal is rejected by Parliament next week, the Government will not be able to decide exclusively what comes next, and any number of amendments can be made by MPs from across the parties represented. Parliament has taken back control – but from the Executive, not Brussels.

It was as if a few rounds of a boxing match had already taken place before the pugilists made it to the ring. The weary-looking Prime Minister who appeared at the despatch box immediately after the humbling of her government spoke for over an hour proposing her deal as the only way forward, in what was the first of forty hours of debate on the matter. Many speculated that the speech might be one of her last as Prime Minister, given how much rides on the upcoming votes and the huge hurdles that would need to be overcome for the Government to get past this.

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Is There Life On Mars?

Hard Brexit Lander on Approach

Comment by Steven Paterson, Former MP for Stirling

The cheers that accompanied the successful landing by the NASA InSight Mission on the surface of Mars must have seemed a long way from the sombre House of Commons yesterday, but perhaps there are parallels that can be drawn.

 

After all, both the NASA InSight spacecraft and the Prime Minister’s Brexit plan have been hurtling through the void for months, subject to dangers unknown and an end uncertain. One tiny miscalculation and the successful touchdown in a world of opportunity is instantly transformed into a mangled trail of scorched wreckage.

 

Which brings me neatly to where we have reached with Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit proposals, which have more chance of being successfully delivered safely to another planet than they do of being endorsed by the House of Commons in two weeks’ time when the Meaningful Vote is held in Parliament.

 

So, what on earth is going on? I mean, there can be no way the Prime Minister does not recognise what dozens and dozens of MPs told her during yesterday’s statement: that there is no chance whatsoever of this deal passing the current House of Commons. Yet the Prime Minister has set off touring the country for support for her deal wherever she can find it, which can only mean that she sees pressure from outwith Parliament as her best chance of success.

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The Beginning of the Dead-End Game

Prime Minister Theresa May

This week’s comment from Steven Paterson, former MP for Stirling

The tedious creep towards the Brexit endgame suddenly accelerated in the past week or so, as the looming negotiation deadline in September finally forced the Prime Minister to nail down some actual proposals at her Chequers showdown.

Cue the resignations of the Brexit Secretary David Davis, who had clearly been side-lined and ignored by the Prime Minister, and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, whose political calculation after seeing Davies resign on a point of principle was that his chances of becoming the next Prime Minister were better served in resigning too.

Boris Johnson,
possibly your future PM and to quote Frankie Boyle, “a cross between a serious head injury and an unmade bed……” scary thought.
Image licensed from depositphoto.com
Any question that the Prime Minister has seen off her extreme hard Brexit opponents is entirely illusory, of course. Both Johnson and Davies will be vociferous critics of her Brexit negotiations from the backbenches and in the press, and the precarious arithmetic for the minority Tory Government in the House of Commons means that each time a significant vote on the matter comes along, the risk of defeat is very real.

It’s anyone’s guess how many such defeats May’s administration can take before collapsing, but we are probably about to find out. Votes on customs arrangements take place in the Commons today (Monday), and the hard Brexit brigade, whose leader Jacob Rees-Mogg has been scathing in his criticism of the Prime Minister’s position and the White Paper published following the Chequers conference, may seek to derail the Government depending on the level of support he can count on.

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Our Westminster Overlords

UK power grab

By Steven Paterson former Stirling MP

In a written statement issued by the Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley this week, the first instalment of the billion pound bung of our money to be allocated to Northern Ireland was dished out.

No less than £410 million has been paid from UK Treasury coffers, explicitly part of the confidence and supply arrangement that ensures that the Tory Government remains afloat thanks to paying off the DUP. Although ostensibly this is direct rule from Westminster over devolved issues in Northern Ireland, in reality, the DUP is in complete control of this process thanks to the present arithmetic in the House of Commons.

Meanwhile, the UK Government is seeking to assume direct rule over one of the other devolved legislatures: Holyrood. Although altogether different in scale, at least for the moment, the attack on Scotland’s devolved parliament resulting from the Brexit vote could have far-reaching and unwelcome implications for the future. In short, if this power grab is allowed to proceed and a precedent is set, this could be merely the thin end of the wedge leading to the aggressive reassertion of London supremacy over hitherto devolved competences.

This is why the Scottish Government is entirely correct to fight this Westminster power grab all the way. Since 1999, the principle of consent has been adhered to when it comes to Westminster legislating on devolved areas and agreement with the Scottish Parliament has been required whenever legislation is being considered at Westminster that has crossed into a devolved area.

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